Through nine games, the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team had allowed just two power-play goals. Boston University could have changed that on any one of its seven man-advantages on Sunday, but the Terriers faltered against the league’s best penalty kill, walking away with nothing to show for 11 power-play shots.
Neither team took a penalty until UNH’s Kevin Goumas was called for hooking 19:44 into the first period. The Wildcats were then penalized four times in the second period, three of which were for stick infractions.
But the Terriers looked oddly sluggish, breaking out of the defensive zone slowly and often losing the puck to UNH’s aggressive forecheckers. On their last two power plays of the second period, BU did not take a single shot on UNH goalie Casey DeSmith.
“We got the puck on our power play, I bet you 10 times, with complete control … and just turned it over,” said BU coach Jack Parker.
“[We] let them come up and bump us off the puck while we were hanging on. That lack of anticipation and willingness to move the puck is going to kill any power play.”
Parker attributed the loss to the team’s lackluster pace, saying they just weren’t ready to go for the 1 p.m. start at Agganis Arena. Uncharacteristically, BU also took just two penalties, both in the third period. While that is certainly not bad in itself, it may, like the power-play struggles, be explained by the Terriers’ general lethargy.
BU ranks sixth in Hockey East in power-play conversion percentage, with a 15.9 percent rate. But they are third in overall scoring, with 31 goals — just one goal fewer than UNH on the season and three fewer than league-leading Boston College in the same number of games — so offense in general is not the problem.
“Sometimes, you have too many guys that think they’re pretty [good],” Parker said. “Nobody is shooting the puck and everybody’s hanging onto it too long. When we’re hanging on a little too long, it’s because we’re not ready to play.”
The Terriers’ inclination to start their breakouts slowly became a larger problem when UNH forwards began to disrupt their passes, pinning the Terriers in front of their own net and running down the clock. More than one BU defenseman stood still near the boards in his own zone for several seconds, waiting for a forward to be open, until a Wildcat swooped in to knock the puck away.
Of BU’s 11 power-play shots, several came from the perimeter and weren’t followed up, even when DeSmith kicked out rebounds. Senior captain Wade Megan, who sees significant time on the power play, said BU could do a better job establishing itself in front of the net.
“We needed to get guys in front of the net willing to get into the defensemen, willing to screen the goaltender, to get some dirty goals,” Megan said. “I don’t think we have had that so far, but it is something that is easily fixed.”
Although BU is not an imposing team size-wise, its forwards could create more traffic in front of the net than they have created recently. Sophomore Yasin Cissé and freshman Sam Kurker are the biggest Terrier forwards, both at 6-foot-3, and neither sees much power-play time, so that role may fall to players like Megan.
“There are guys that are capable of it — myself included,” Megan said. “I haven’t done a good job of it this year, so it’s definitely something I need to work on. I need to be in front of the net more and be taking care of business in front of the net.”